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A. Steinhebel (Tacoma, WA United States)
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A Personal Matter
A Personal Matter
by Kenzaburo Oe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.91
67 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is moral responsibility important if you have no morality?, March 5 2003
This review is from: A Personal Matter (Paperback)
Kenzaburo Oe was born in 1935, and so he lived through World War II as a child in Imperialist Japan. This puts him in a position that few Americans can truly understand. For 10 years, he was taught that the Emperor was God, and the gloy of the Empire was all that mattered. And suddenly, in the flash of two Atomic bombs, that ended. The entire moral system that a generation of people were raised on collapsed. He is to accept the fine, Liberal values of the West, but on what foundation do they rest? In short, his generation was robbed of it's ethical heritage. The Emperor was human. The morality of the West can only be seen in the eyes of someone who witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Right and wrong never had any true meaning, and the post WWII generation had to search it out for itself. This ethical aimlessness manifests itself in Oe most important and widely read work, A Personal Matter. Bird, the Japanese everyman of the post-WWII generation, is the father of a new born infant who has a horrible birth defect. At great personal expense, he can allow the child to be operated upon, however, there is very little chance of success, and the child will most likely become severely retarded. Or else he can allow the child to starve on a diet of sugar water, under the doctor's watchful eyes. It is a moral question that a man without morality must answer. This leads Bird on a journey through terror and vice. In absence of any higher values to turn to, Bird finds solace in humiliating sex, booze, and dreams of escape to Africa. I really cannot stress how underrated this novel is in America. Frankly, I had never heard of it until I saw it at a used book store. Oe won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1994, an honor which is shamefully overlooked in America. A Personal Matter is an intensely powerful, philosophical journey that offers more to modern man bleak Nihilism. Oe, raised without morality, forced to discover the ethics of the world on his own, manages to provide use with a beautiful vision of hope for man.

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.26
33 used & new from CDN$ 5.38

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent layman's introduction, March 5 2003
This book is the cure to all those [] self-help type introductions to Buddhism you see these days. This is far from a scholalry book, only suited for dry academics, but at the same time, it doesn't pidgeon hole all of the Buddha's teachings into a few maxims for the Busy American to absorb on the way to the gym or work. I can't gaurantee that you'll become a Buddhist after reading this, or even have much desire to (I know I didn't), but I simply do not see how you can walk away from it without some insight into how you live your life. At the very least, this book will cause you to locate your own self-deprecating actions and stop them (without being new age-y, or full of [] pop psychology). At best, this will cause you to start your life along the middle path. More likely than not, though, you'll end up some where in the middle, like I did. I read this at a very hard point in my life, and I can tell you that it was one of the main reasons I was pulled out of that funk. It helped me to understand why we suffer, and how to escape the cycle of pain and humiliation. Highly Recommended.

The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The new American lit, Feb. 24 2003
I was pleasently suprised to find this novel. It's a collection of short stories loosely connected to the exploits of a company of soilders in 1968 in the jungles of Vietnam. Except it's not. It's really not a collection of short fictional stories, but a searing memoir of the events that haunt the real life Tim O'Brien. Except it's not. It's actually a fully fictional novel, using emotions and symbology to convey the political and personal horror of Vietnam. Except it's not. The truth is that The Things They carried is all of this and more. It's easy to (attempt to) pidgen hole this book into a perfect category, but the truth is, it's undefinable. It's seemingly a simple book, and the first few chapters will not have you believe that you are reading anything more than a simple war story. But in the end, the book's very structure causes us to question the very nature of truth itself. And the importance of it as well. I realize that I'm making this novel seem very complicated, but rest assured,Ulysses this is not. Anyone who wants to see where American Literature is going, needs to read this.

Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.05
44 used & new from CDN$ 1.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant today, Feb. 17 2003
This review is from: Anna Karenina (Paperback)
What can be said about Tolstoy that hasn't been said thousands of times before? Well, nothing really. This novel is consistently called one of the greatest novels wver written, and that is certainly true. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy creates a story that is both epic and personal. It touches on every human emotion, covering it all, from happiness to dispair. Using the foils of Anna and Levin, Tolstoy is critiquing both his strict aristocratic world, and humanity in general. Anna is a strong woman who can not come to terms with the society she is forced to accept; Levin is a man who has rejected society and it's conventionalities to strive to creates a new way of living, free from the interference of Government and Church. Through this compaison, Toltsoy shows how he believes we should live our lives. Anyway, you should really read it yourself. Think of it as a work out before the marathon of War and Peace, which you simply HAVE to read to be a truly literate person in this world. Happy reading.

Heart of Darkness: Great Books Edition
Heart of Darkness: Great Books Edition
by Joseph Conrad
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.83
73 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars The evil of man, Feb. 10 2003
I'm not sure how to feel about this book. While reading it, I really could not become absorbed by Conrad's dense prose, though, while occasionaly eloquent, is very thick, and, well, British. But now that I am finished with it, I can not get the images the novella invokes out of my head. The conquest of Africa by the Imperialist on the surface, and the corruption of man's very morality underneath. The story is deceptively simple, merely a man working for an Ivory trading company, ominously called "The Company", going up the Congo river to meet up with Kurtz, the archetype of Western Imperialism. During this trip, we are shown the inner workings of man and his heart of darkness. The novella is not perfect though. Conrad's condemnation of Imperialism is uneven. Yes, the only discernable cause of Kurtz's descent into evil and madness is the imperialist ethic of master-slave, and it is fairly clear that Marlowe (conrad) is condemning that ethic, but at the same time, he doesn't work very hard to elevate the view of the African natives any higher in the esteem of his western readers. Anyway, as the novella is only about 100 pages, it is something that can be read in a day. Invest an afternoon in it, and decide for yourself.

Simulacra and Simulation
Simulacra and Simulation
by Jean Baudrillard
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.10
42 used & new from CDN$ 15.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary philosophy. But what's the point?, Feb. 9 2003
Everything you have heard about this book is true. It is dense, complicated, annoyingly analytical, and fairly pointless. Yet it's also genius. To preface...Continental philosophy, in the past hundred years or so, has not been known for it's practical applications. Existentialism and Postmodernism are mental games for the Ivory Tower intellectual, sure. But that doesn't mean that they do not provide a model for looking at and thinking about the world that the average intellect can relate to and use. And this book is no exception to that. It IS dificult to understand, yes, but no where near as bad as most people in these reviews seem to think. Anyone with a basic understanding of Objectivism v. Subjectism, Platonism, and the empirical philosphers can get plenty out of it. The vocabulary is no worse then most other philosophy, and a lot less complicated then some (this isn't Kant). Baisically, Baudrillard shows us that reality no longer exists, and has been replaced by simulacra via the process of simulation, creatin what he calls the "hyperreal". It is a very enlightening read, and will make you really rethink how you view the world. The major problem with the book, as at least one other person has pointed out, is Baudrillard's cultural references. They are quite dated by this point, and you'll find yourself completely lost as to his point, since you can't relate to his subject. In the end though, it is a book that anyone interested in contemporary philosophy should read.

Heart of Darkness: Great Books Edition
Heart of Darkness: Great Books Edition
by Joseph Conrad
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.83
73 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but..., Feb. 3 2003
I'm not sure how to feel about this book. While reading it, I really could not become absorbed by Conrad's dense prose, though, while occasionaly eloquent, is very thick, and, well, British. But now that I am finished with it, I can not get the images the novella invokes out of my head. The conquest of Africa by the Imperialist on the surface, and the corruption of man's very morality underneath. The story is deceptively simple, merely a man working for an Ivory trading company, ominously called "The Company", going up the Congo river to meet up with Kurtz, the archetype of Western Imperialism. During this trip, we are shown the inner workings of man and his heart of darkness. The novella is not perfect though. Conrad's condemnation of Imperialism is uneven. Yes, the only discernable cause of Kurtz's descent into evil and madness is the imperialist ethic of master-slave, and it is fairly clear that Marlowe (conrad) is condemning that ethic, but at the same time, he doesn't work very hard to elevate the view of the African natives any higher in the esteem of his western readers. Anyway, as the novella is only about 100 pages, it is something that can be read in a day. Invest an afternoon in it, and decide for yourself.

Simulacra and Simulation
Simulacra and Simulation
by Jean Baudrillard
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.10
42 used & new from CDN$ 15.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pointless? Sure. But enlightening still., Feb. 1 2003
Everything you have heard about this book is true. It is dense, complicated, annoyingly analytical, and fairly pointless. Yet it's also genius. To preface...Continental philosophy, in the past hundred years or so, has not been known for it's practical applications. Existentialism and Postmodernism are mental games for the Ivory Tower intellectual, sure. But that doesn't mean that they do not provide a model for looking at and thinking about the world that the average intellect can relate to and use. And this book is no exception to that. It IS dificult to understand, yes, but no where near as bad as most people in these reviews seem to think. Anyone with a basic understanding of Objectivism v. Subjectism, Platonism, and the empirical philosphers can get plenty out of it. The vocabulary is no worse then most other philosophy, and a lot less complicated then some (this isn't Kant). Baisically, Baudrillard shows us that reality no longer exists, and has been replaced by simulacra via the process of simulation, creatin what he calls the "hyperreal". It is a very enlightening read, and will make you really rethink how you view the world. The major problem with the book, as at least one other person has pointed out, is Baudrillard's cultural references. They are quite dated by this point, and you'll find yourself completely lost as to his point, since you can't relate to his subject. In the end though, it is a book that anyone interested in contemporary philosophy should read.

A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 6.99
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest English writer's Greatest novel, Jan. 29 2003
My first experience with Dickens was in 9th grade, when I was forced to read Great Expectations. I remember the experience as painful and ardous. But after reading A Tale of Two Cities, I realize that my opinion must have been influenced by excessive pouting. There is simply no way that a man who could write something one the level of A Tale of Two Cities could write something tedious. When people say that everything important can be found in this novel, they are not exagerrating. Love, tyranny, triumph over oppresion, the futility of the mob, and, most importantly, self-sacrafice. This is one of the greatest novels ever written, I don't hesitate to say so. Dickens has a singular ability to present an enveloping view of all humanity, all it's triumphs, struggles, and failings, and yet he can still produce characters who don't get lost in the sweep of the plot. In addition to this, Dickens (along with many others, such as Hugo, Dostoeysky, and Tolstoy) marks the transition from the "listing" style of writing (simple list of events written down) to the truly artistic novel. You'll find yourself rolling his words over your tounge, in awe of their brilliance. For your own sake, read it, read it again, and never forget it.

The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran
The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran
by Robin Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.33
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Not the Iran we all think we know..., Jan. 26 2003
Americans have a pretty bleak picutre of Iranian society fixed in their heads. And who can blame them? The turmoil after the shah's exile, the hostage crises, the war with Iraq, chadors, Salman Rushdie, and a many other similar problems in Iranian society do not exactly conform to American values. Well, that was then and this is now. Iran is changing. It has changed. The country that told it's people to go forth and multiply now requires classes on birth control before marriage. Vesectomys are given out free by the state. Even abortion is allowed in certain cases (health and monetary problems). The Catholics aren't even that progressive! Social change is gripping Iran. The new Generation of student protestors aren't capturing Americans, they are fighting against the conservative forces in their own government. They aren't calling for a second revolution or a return to the Shah's times. They want reform. And they are, alebit more slowly then most Americans would prefer, winning. Mohammad Khatami, president of Iran, won with 70% of the vote on a strong reformist platform. Wright's books is required reading for anyone who wants to understand this new Iran.

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